Ellen DeGeneres says toxic workplace accusations felt 'too orchestrated'
After Ellen DeGeneres announced her long-running talk show is coming to an end after its 19th season, the comedian sat down with NBC's Today show anchor Savannah Guthrie to address the show's ending and, in part, the backlash she and the show received about allegations of a toxic work environment last year.
"I really didn't understand it. I still don't understand it," DeGeneres told Guthrie in an interview filmed on the set of The Ellen DeGeneres Show. "It was too orchestrated, it was too coordinated. People get picked on, but for four months straight and then for me to read in the press about a toxic work environment when all I've ever heard from every guest that comes on the show is what a happy atmosphere this is and what a happy place this is..."
Stories came out last summer in the press and on social media that called DeGeneres' positive demeanor into question. One such allegation claimed she had a sensitive nose and therefore made employees chew gum before speaking with her, which DeGeneres told The Hollywood Reporter she found "hilarious." But the accusations kept coming.
Not too long after, BuzzFeed News published an article in 2020 with allegations from mostly former employees of a toxic work environment on the show. This was followed by another article that claimed "harassment, sexual misconduct, and assault from top producers."
"If it was why I was quitting, I would have not come back this year," DeGeneres told Guthrie. "I really did think about not coming back because it was devastating. I am a kind person. I am a person who likes to make people happy."
DeGeneres further stated that she "had no idea" about any kind of untenable workplace. "Never saw anything that would even point to that," she said.
"I don't know how I could have known when there's 225 employees here and there are a lot of different buildings," she told Guthrie. "Unless I literally stayed here until that last person goes home at night... It's my name on the show, so clearly it affects me, and I have to be the one to stand up and say this can't be tolerated. But I do wish somebody would've come to me and said, 'Hey, something's going on that you should know about.'"
The New York Times had reported viewership of The Ellen DeGeneres Show shrank by 1.1 million following those reports, but DeGeneres said those also were not a factor in ending the show.
"It's more for this one because we had further to fall," she said. "And everybody else was at a lower place, so they didn't have as far to fall. To be honest. I mean, that's the truth, we were very, very successful. As you said, everything in television is down. It's got nothing to do with why I'm leaving. If I was having fun, I would do this show with nobody watching. So it's got nothing to do with that."
The Ellen DeGeneres Show will formally conclude in spring 2022.